Wimbledon 2016: What Roger Federer’s marathon five-setter teaches us about champions

What are the ingredients that go into making “Mental Strength”?

How do you tap into this strength, especially when you are in a challenging situation and the odds that you are surrounded by, seem absurdly insurmountable?

What is that magic ingredient that defines a Champion?

In light of Roger Federer’s “Epic” win at The Wimbeldon 2016, I was asked these questions at an interview conducted by First post, Network 18. My views as a Life Coach, from a vantage point of observation, where I have had the privilege to see many leaders unleash their greatness, for over a decade now, are summed up here.

A token of humble thanks to Ms. Sulekha Nair, Features Editor at First Post who has summed up our discussion so beautifully.





The ‘Vulnerable’ Leader – Do you have the courage to show your authentic self?

The fifth game would decide the clincher of the title between Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, two of the best teams in the game during the late 90’s. The five game series had tied 2-2 and the best player in the world, Michael Jordan was going through sleepless nights between the fourth game and the fifth. He wished he be injured during practice, wished that his food be poisoned and he be admitted to the hospital. He wished that some calamity befall and the games stay as they are!

The reason? He did not want to be a part of the fifth match and stake the reputation of Air Jordan, the greatest player centre court had ever seen by losing the penultimate game. At the pinnacle of his career, the greatest basketball player of the world faced the most interesting challenge of his life – “The Challenge of Vulnerability.” It is a different story that he played the game, with all his heart and went on to win the most valuable player trophy at the NBA, but his story certainly resonates with the stories of some of the greatest people who’ve lived their time on earth.

How many of us have faced this situation when the odds are stacked against us, when we really want to quit and give up, when we are haunted by the demons that lie dormant deep within us? How many times in our lives have we almost given up, feeling a sense of desperation and deprivation ready to call it quits when your leadership is challenged? How many times have you felt like a vulnerable leader?

There’s good news. When a Michael Jordan can feel vulnerable, so can you and I. We all have our moments when the odds are stacked against us and we question our own ability and capability.

During those moments you need to realize that vulnerability is not an act of cowardice, but the ability to propel yourself and show your authentic self, first to yourself and then to the rest of the world. It is that force that you experience during the most testing of times, yet you break out of its shackles and emerge triumphant. Vulnerability is what brings out the best from within us and makes us stronger.


There are a few myths which are associated with vulnerability which is very important for us to get done with. The top three myths regarding vulnerability are as follows –

  1. Vulnerability is weakness: No it isn’t. It is the strength that gives us an opportunity to surpass our weaknesses
  2. You can stay away from vulnerability: It is a part of our existence and hence a part of us. No one can stay away from vulnerability, however we can cope with it and emerge victorious.
  3. It is not about going all alone: Vulnerability is also about disclosure, about the confidence to confide in someone who you trust and possibly guide you out of the situation.

There are moments during your course of engagement that you feel low, feel the need to back out, feel that the time and the situation are not suitable for your mind to propel towards action, fret not! Vulnerability could be an asset if used well could guide you into your next orbit of confidence and conviction.

Vulnerability is an asset, use it well!

Association of Corporate Executive Coaches Announces First International Awards Competition

New Jersey (PRWEB) April 24, 2013

The Association of Corporate Executive Coaches (ACEC), a global organization driving results-oriented standards to define the master-level executive coaching industry, today announced the creation of a new worldwide competition, The International 2013 ACEC Executive Coaching Thought Leader of Distinction awards. This landmark program and its distinguished awards are designed to honor a person or persons who’ve made significant contributions to corporate executive coaching, specifically when their work introduces transformative and sustainable business impacts on those they’ve coached.

“Qualified corporate executive coaches have greatly improved the efficiency and profitability of the companies and leaders they serve,” said CB Bowman, ACEC CEO. “And international awards like this one will help raise the collective standards of coaches as others strive to achieve similar excellence, eager to pay that knowledge forward. Standardization and recognition of those standards channeled through a competitive awards program is like our industry’s version of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Highlighting the accomplishments of the select few raises the standards for all, improving global recognition and support for the considerable value they add.”

The ACEC, founded by Bowman, a master coach with more than 20 years of experience and expertise with Fortune 500 clients, was launched in 2010. The association brings together more than 100 of the world’s elite executive coaches from over 22 countries. The reality is that many C-Suite executives of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1,000 companies lack an objective sounding board to voice their management challenges and business concerns. Corporate executive coaches, skilled in multiple verticals, help free their clients from their own echo chambers, providing expert advice with no competitive edge to be gained.

Achieving that type of relationship requires industry knowledge, as well as a broad understanding of corporate methods. That’s why the ACEC prides itself on an impressive variety of member metrics:

• 99% have a post-graduate degree and 10 years of executive coaching experience – a longevity statistic strongly correlated to the performance of corporate executive coaches;
• 90% are published authors in a variety of outlets including white papers, articles and books;
• 80% have coached a Fortune 1000 company and have over 10 years of coaching experience with C-Suite executives; and
• 98% have 10 years of experience inside a corporate environment as a business executive responsible for the bottom line.

Nominations for the upcoming awards can be filled out online here and will continue until May 15th.

Bowman added, “Corporate executive coaches may not always take center stage when senior-level executives are recognized for their years of skillful management. Very often what’s not captured in those moments of public praise are the dedicated and hard-working collaborations that go on behind the scenes between qualified corporate executive coaches and the executives they coach.”

About the ACEC:

Founded in 2010, the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches has a unique global mission: To recognize master-level executive coaches and support their work worldwide through forums for continuous learning, collaboration and community – while upholding rigorous admission and credentialing requirements – so members can make the most positive impact possible on business leadership and performance.

In the first few months of 2012, the ACEC re-launched its website and blog; launched a quarterly e-Magazine, “The Paradyme* Shift,” which examines industry-wide executive coaching trends, business updates and best practices; and has enjoyed a 50% increase in the group‘s membership. A new board and executive committee are also helping steer the ACEC in new and exciting directions.

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/acec/thought-leader-2013/prweb10660620.htm

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Psychologist and researcher, Robert Plutchik created The wheel of Emotions – a model of human emotions and their relations and combinations. It consists of 8 basic emotions, opposed in pairs, and multiple shades.
The model resulted in a circumplex where emotions and variations are represented by different colors and hues. This circumplex can be flattened in a 2D view (see below) to allow viewing of all emotions at once.
Plutchik identified eight primary emotions, which he coordinated in pairs of opposites: joy versus sadness; trust versus disgust; fear versus anger and anticipation versus surprise.


Intensity of emotion and indicator color increases toward the center of the wheel and decreases outward. Akin to a color wheel, variations in color intensity correspond to variations in emotional intensity. Thus, the eight primary emotions occupy the middle ring of the flower with more intense forms occurring in the center (depicted by bolder colors) and milder forms the extremities (depicted by paler colors).

For example, “Rage” is the stronger form of “Anger” while “Annoyance” is the weaker. Similarly, terror becomes fear and then apprehension; Ecstasy becomes joy and then serenity.
Further, secondary emotions are displayed as combinations of the primary ones: Acceptance and apprehension combine to create submission.

Personally, I find this model pretty illuminating. Although, Plutcih’s model is a good start, it seems to be incomplete. It has often been argued that many complex emotions have not found place in this model. To that extent, this model is limited.

Effective Coaching helps in Sharpening Your Focus

One of the competencies of successful coaches is to be able to assist the coached ‘decode’ his or her words, thoughts and emotions. But in doing that, the coach needs to avoid the trap of drawing meanings of the coached person’s words based on his or her own frame of reference. It is important to remember a word may have different connotations for different people.

What a coach needs to do here is to help the coached move beyond generalities and be precise with words, thoughts and emotions. More often than not, I’ve heard the coached using generalised and absolute statements like “I never have enough time” or “Nobody ever listens to me” or “They always reject my ideas.”

I have also heard sentences sprinkled with comparative phrases like ‘more than’, ‘better than’ and ‘less than’.  And I have heard people use collective nouns and pronouns that are sweeping rather than specific – “they,” ‘we,” “the stakeholders” and “senior management.” It is also interesting to hear them say “I need to communicate well” or “I need to be healthy” and speak of self-imposed constraints.

Coaches may use a series of clarifying questions to facilitate the process of sharpening the focus. Take for example a time when the coached comes up with a generalised statement like: “My leader always rejects my ideas.” A coach may then ask: “Is it true? How many times in the last six months have your ideas been rejected?” That will help the coached get more clarity.

Similarly, when the coached uses comparative terms like ‘better than’ or ‘more than’, it is imperative that the coach ask “Better than who?” or “More than what?” Or, when collective nouns like “the stakeholders” and “senior management” are used, it may help to ask “Who specifically do you mean?” or “Who in the senior management?”

A good coach will always ask the coached “What do you mean by communicate well?  Do you mean you want to articulate ideas well or be brief or listen more and talk less?” And when the coach hears of self-imposed constraints, the attempt should be to discover what exactly the constraints are. Some of my favourite questions which often encourage the coached to challenge their thinking and test these constraints are – According to who?  What measure are you using?  What is the worst that could happen if you didn’t do this?

Indeed, the clarifying questions often act as a mirror and may help the coached test his or her own beliefs and even re-evaluate his/her thinking. The time spent in ‘digging’ to understand  the coached person’s perspective and helping him or her articulate thoughts and ideas with clarity is a useful exercise and may help in saving time and energy in the long run.

A Coach Indeed

This article appreared in Outlook Business – April 2, 2011 issue. Written by Shruti Yadav, it carries my views on the field of coaching in India along with those of some of my peers in the industry.

Indians have a knack of building support systems

Extended families, a large circle of friends, friends of friends, etc., are there all the time to lend a sympathetic ear or to give advice. For business problems, there are consultants and for serious behavioural and emotional issues, there is a battery of psychologists and psychiatrists. But what do you do when you want help to introspect? It may seem a contradiction of sorts, but a life coach performs a similar function. He will listen to you, ask you questions and make you find the answers within yourself.

Life coaching and executive coaching are Western concepts, but they are fast gaining currency in India. As Shalini Verma, Founder of The Skyscrapers Academy, a leadership and executive coaching organisation, puts it, “Coaching is about unlocking potential—driving change inside out.” Executive coach Sunil Unny Guptan adds that a coach can point you in directions you haven’t explored before, so you can add value to yourself—in terms of acquiring new skills, new ideas, new perspectives, a new way of life, new thinking and even experimenting with things

Many people are now hiring coaches to achieve various life objectives, and the trend is especially strong among corporates, who want to help their employees make the maximum use of their capabilities.


So what exactly do coaches do? They listen, says Verma. According to her, there should be an 80:20 ratio between how much a client speaks and how much the coach speaks. And listening implies not just hearing the words, but the tone of voice, patterns and repetitions in the conversation. Quite Freudian, some would say. But the coach does not perform the passive role of putting you on a couch and letting you ramble. Nor is he a buddy or a confidant.

A good coach, in fact, says Simerjeet Singh, life coach and Co-founder, Cutting Edge Learning Systems, pushes the client out of his or her comfort zone. The job of a coach is to ask questions. Several questions, even uncomfortable ones. As a coach is supposed to refrain, as far as possible, from giving direct advice, questioning is the most potent tool with which he can help the client create a plan of action to enhance his life quality.

Like psychologists and counsellors, coaches also maintain absolute confidentiality, since trust is the most important factor in this relationship. And they have to remain neutral and non-judgemental at all times. At the same time, once a desired objective has been stated, the coach helps the client break a bigger goal into smaller, more easily achievable targets.

Yet human nature being what it is, don’t the clients play truant and make excuses? Of course they do, and that is why they need a coach to push them all the time. Singh says one of the most important aspects of a coach’s job is to hold the client accountable. It is important to define each target in terms of how often, by when, and how much, i.e., how often must a task be performed to achieve a certain part of the bigger goal, and to set a deadline for it.

Verma feels that when a client is unable to make progress it is up to the coach to assess whether the obstacle is real or imagined, and to help the client work his way around it.


It may sound like a dream scenario, but trusting someone with your life is not a joke. Specially since this is a nascent field with no regulation. While there are organisations, like the International Coach Federation, which offer certification for coaches, in India there is no legal requirement for a coach to be certified or even formally trained.

And like any sensitive relationship, this one, too, is open to abuse. Emotional dependence is one of the pitfalls. Unny Guptan says this happens because “some coaches tend to become too directive, which does not allow the coachee to develop his own personality to solve his own problems over a period of time”. Other pitfalls may be transference of ambition to the client and possessiveness or another agenda on part of the coach, like seeking a relationship other than that of the coach-coachee.

Another problem, says Verma, is that some clients want to be spoon-fed. Or, organisations hire coaches to “fix” employee problems. “As coaching is not a quick fix solution, one does not hire a coach when a problem arises,” Verma says. Sometimes, people with deep-seated behavioural problems, like aggression, hostile relationships with employees or relationship issues may approach coaches for solutions too. But this not the domain of a coach. Dr Pavan Sonar, a psychiatric consultant and psychotherapist, says, “Coaching is not for people with behavioural or psychological problems. If the coach is unable to understand the pathology underlying certain behaviours, he could do a lot of harm.”

As coaching becomes more popular in India, an understanding of its applications and potential is growing, too. The International Coach Federation has an India Chapter now, and many have experienced the life-changing results of coaching.

Link to the article: http://business.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?271216

The Leadership Habitat

Leadership is the expertise to encourage the process of decision making through the capacity to listen and observe. Leadership is not the measure of a person’s skill of performance; rather it is the measure of a person’s capacity of leading the performance.

The most gifted athletes rarely make good coaches. The best violinist will not necessarily make the best conductor. Nor will the best teacher necessarily make the best head of the department.

The thrill of challenge makes a potential leader. A willingness to take responsibility will never intimidate a true leader, because the joy of accomplishment, the vicarious feeling of contributing to other people, is what leadership is all about.

A leader needs an environment to succeed. It is so important, particularly in the early days of someone’s leadership, that he or she be put into a congenial environment. An environment that threatens our sense of security or well-being splits our concentration from the cause.

Most qualities which define the characteristics of any individual begin at home. Leadership is no different. A natural leader begins the process of conscious decision making at home. It is his or her habitat which mirrors this skill of leadership.

Habitat is Latin for ‘It inhabits’. The type of environment in which any life form or a group normally lives is known as habitat. A leader contributes towards a process of building and improving his or her habitat through an involved engagement of the broader community through inclusive leadership and diverse partnerships which would nourish the habitat further

The sense of caring and sharing with one’s brethren and the sense of fellowship forms the core of a habitat. A leader has a very great role to play in acting as a catalyst for a synergetic relationship between individuals working in diverse habitat related areas and to maximise their total effectiveness.

Delhi, one of India’s richest cities faces an unparalleled water crisis. Poonam Bisht may be the best known resident of West End, an affluent neighbourhood in New Delhi. The housewife and mother of two is the suburb’s resident activist.

Ms. Bisht’s is responsible for building a rainwater harvesting system in the neighbourhood. The low tech system consists of a network of unassuming gutters in the ground that funnel rainwater to shallow pits lined with pebbles that act as a filter.

Thanks to this system, West End is able to draw on its own tubewells and no longer hires trucks to bring in water as is the norm in many Indian Cities where ground water has dried up.

This rare quality of leadership with a hands-on approach shown by Ms. Bisht is a shining example of how leadership can change the environment in which we live. She faced a number of hurdles along the way, but she had a never-say-die spirit which culminated in a better habitat for the residents of one colony of Delhi.

If every colony of Delhi takes a leaf out of her book, and has someone with the leadership shown at West End, the water problem of Delhi will be solved not by the state but by the leadership initiative of its residents.

In the words of the noted American aviation pioneer and author, Amelia Earhart “Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off! But if you don’t have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.”